Already considered one of the world's true off-roading and overlanding icons, the Toyota Land Cruiser is now also the world's fastest SUV ... well, kind of. At last year's SEMA Show, Toyota showed a ridiculous 2,000-hp version it called the Land Speed Cruiser. Some might have figured it just a fun SEMA tune, but Toyota alluded to a possible record run from the beginning. Now it's gone and done it, and at 230-mph (370 km/h), the Land Speed Cruiser not only grabs the "world fastest SUV" title, it leaves many a supercar gasping for air before the finish line.
In 1993, when the competition for the production car speed record really started getting interesting, the McLaren F1 drove its way to a world speed record with a 231 mph (372 km/h) run, handily surpassing the Jaguar XJ220's 217-mph (349 km/h) record. Not a full decade earlier, 200 mph (322 km/h) was still a dream.
The McLaren F1 was head and shoulders above other sports cars of its day, but now there's a 230-mph full-size SUV out there that could give it hell in a head-to-head straight-line (we suspect the F1 would still pull it out at the end since it eventually upped the world speed record just above 241 mph/388 km/h).
With recently retired Toyota NASCAR driver Carl Edwards behind the wheel, the Land Speed Cruiser clocked an official one-way time of 230.02 mph (370.2 km/h) on a 2.5-mile (4-km) runway at California's Mojave Air and Space Port. That speed blows well past the previous SUV world record claim of 211 mph (340 km/h), crowning the Land Speed Cruiser the speed king of SUVs – and given its top speed is faster than many six- and seven-figure supercars, that's no dubious honor.
Getting the bulky Land Cruiser up to that kind of speed obviously took much more than just dropping a NASCAR driver inside and putting a couple miles of runway in front of him. Toyota Motorsports positioned two large Garrett turbochargers around the Land Cruiser's 5.7-liter V8, then added a custom racing transmission and reinforced the engine construction to handle the monstrous power boost. The suspension was lowered to help prevent the SUV's high construction from interfering with its speed ambitions, and the chassis was reworked to accommodate the suspension and Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires.
On record day, Toyota test driver and race car champion Craig Stanton warmed the Land Speed Cruiser up by flirting with 200 mph. Edwards then took the wheel and got 'er up fast enough to tie the 211-mph record on his first run but ran out of pavement before he was able to surge to a new record. Toyota technicians dialled up boost to increase power, and Edwards went on to hit 230 mph, again running out of pavement before fully reaching peak speed. Toyota says it has both video and GPS data to back its claim up.
"At 225 mph, the thing was wandering a little bit. All I could think was that Craig said, 'No matter what, just keep your foot in it,' and we got 230 mph," Edwards recounts. "It's safe to say that this is the fastest SUV on the planet."
The 230-mph record is 10 mph (16 km/h) above what Toyota was estimating when it introduced the Land Speed Cruiser at SEMA.
Ordinarily, this is the part where we'd start doling out asterisks – like the one that Hennessey and its 270.5-mph (435.3-km/h) gets because it only made a one-way run, instead of the two-way run required for official production speed record status. But such conventions don't appear to apply to the less competitive field of SUV speed record racing.
The previous record-holder, a 740-hp, Brabus-tuned Mercedes GLK V12, topped 200 mph (322 km/h) on the track, as announced by Brabus in 2009. Brabus' release didn't describe exactly how it clocked that 200-mph top speed, and the 211-mph top speed it's been popularly credited with appears to be a miscalculated conversion. At the top of the 2009 press release, Brabus lists its speed as "322.3 km/h (200.3 mph)" but later lists it as "322.3 km/h (211 mph)." The former conversion is the correct one, leaving us to conclude that the GLK's actual verified speed was 200.3 mph, not 211 mph, as has been widely reported.
We reached out to Toyota to see if it had additional evidence of an actual 211-mph run when using that figure as its benchmark, and it told us it had noticed the same discrepancy but decided to use 211 anyway so as to avoid any challenges or questions. We reckon using the 211 did help prevent any confusion while still giving Toyota plenty to brag about, but we're confident giving Toyota a little more to brag about – about 11 mph (17.7 km/h) over the previous record more, to be exact.
We've also reached out to Brabus and will update if and when it gets back to us with any further clarification about its 2009 record claim.
In the meantime, it's pretty safe to say the Land Speed Cruiser's claim to world's fastest SUV doesn't come with any asterisks. While heavily modified, the ultra-powerful Land Cruiser is peerless in the SUV world and more comfortable rubbing elbows with the likes of world's fastest cars like the Noble M600 (225 mph), Spania GTA Spano (230 mph) and Zenvo TS1 (233 mph). Even then, it's a small, exclusive club.
Update: Brabus kindly sent us a copy of the certificate it received from Nardo on October 19, 2009, and the only speed referenced is 322.3 km/h, which means its record was indeed 200.3 mph, not 211 mph.